Day Three: Florida Panthers
2010 Record: 32-37-13 (77 Points), 14th in the Eastern Conference
2010-2011 Notable Arrivals: C Marty Reasoner (CBJ), D Dennis Wideman (BOS), RW Byron Bitz (BOS), RW Steve Bernier (VAN), RW Michael Grabner (VAN), LW Chris Higgins (NYR), D Nathan Paetsch (BUF)
2010-2011 Notable Departures: RW Nathan Horton (BOS), C Gregory Campbell (BOS), D Keith Ballard (VAN), Steve Reinprecht (UFA)
Panthers Report Card
Forwards: With a new GM in town in Dale Tallon, many changes have taken place within the Florida Panthers organization.
This is no more evident than within the team’s forward group. The focus appears to have been to add some depth in the likes of C Marty Reasoner and LW Chris Higgins and to get a little bit young by acquiring RW Michael Grabner and RW Steve Bernier.
Last season, the Panthers were a team that had trouble scoring, and the concussion issues of leading 2009 scorer David Booth did nothing but complicate matters. However, this season, the Panthers are hoping to get offensive contributions from all four lines. Star Czech forward Michael Frolik and Canadian Stephen Weiss will be looked upon to lead the attack for Florida. They also hope for a quick recovery for Booth, as he will be expected to be the top line left winger.
Panthers will also need contributions from veterans such as Cory Stillman and Radek Dvorak. Michael Grabner should make an immediate impact, as he will finally have the opportunity to skate a regular shift on the right side.
Overall, the Panthers may not have the most talented group up front, but there are definitely elements in place that give them a chance to compete each and every night.
Overall Grade: C-
Top Fantasy Forwards in 2010/2011: C Stephen Weiss (28G/32A/60Pts/-7), C/RW Michael Frolik (22G/22A/43Pts/-4), LW Cory Stillman (15G/22A/37pts/-3)
Defence: The Panthers, despite the loss of Keith Ballard, have a fairly strong top four in their defence corps. The defence is lead by Captain Bryan McCabe and newly acquired Dennis Wideman. Both are veteran defenders with offensive upside, but are capable of playing in a shut down role as well.
Sophomore defender Dmitry Kulikov and rookie defender Keaton Ellerby, who will likely spend his first full season with the club, round out a very mobile group. It is quite possible that 2010 first round pick Erik Gudbranson of the Kingston Frontenacs gets an opportunity to crack the top six right out of training camp. This would definitely strengthen a young but talented back end in Florida.
It is difficult to speculate how this group will perform, but it will definitely contain a nice mix of youth and veteran leadership. The success of the team will likely be attributed to how well they play for 82 games this season.
Overall Grade: B
Top Fantasy Defenders in 2010/2011: Bryan McCabe (21G/22A/43Pts/-4), Dennis Wideman (6G/24A/30Pts/-14)
Goaltending: In goal lies the strongest aspect of the Florida Panthers with two established veterans in goal and likely the best goaltending prospect of any NHL club today.
In Tomas Vokoun, who returns for the final year of his contract, the Panthers have a steady goaltender who is used to seeing a lot of rubber over the course of the season. Vokoun is also very much a work horse and will once again see a majority of the starts between the pipes.
Scott Clemmenson is a decent back up and can definitely do the job when Vokoun needs a rest.
However, the player Panthers fans are most excited about is 21-year-old Swedish goaltender Jacob Markstrom. The goaltender has signed a three year entry level deal with the Panthers and will likely play his first professional season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Rochester.
However, it could be sooner rather than later that we see Markstrom in goal for the big club. This is one area where the Panthers should be steady all season long.
Overall Grade: A-
Top Fantasy Goaltender in 2010/2011: Tomas Vokoun (23-28-11/2.55GAA/.920SV %), Jacob Markstrom (SEL Stats: 43 GP/2.01/.927SV%)
Prospects Watch (via hockeysfuture.com)
1. G Jacob Markstrom
Drafted: 2009, second round, 31st overall
Previous Team: Brynas (SEL)
Key Attributes: Likely the best goaltending prospect for any NHL team. Markstrom is a technically sound and all around solid goalie. He is big and covers a lot of the net; he is skilled but also very mentally strong in goal. He still needs a bit of work with rebound control but has tremendous upside regardless. He will play this season in the AHL with the Rochester Americans, and once fine tuned, should be poised for action next season.
2. D Erik Gudbranson
Drafted: 2010, third Overall
Current Team: Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Key Attributes: Solid two way defender that can play a physical brand of hockey. He plays with skill, toughness and also great leadership. He can also contribute offensively by joining the rush or using a big shot from the back end.
3. C Nick Bjugstad
Drafted: 2010, 19th Overall
Current Team: University of Minnesota (NCAA)
Key Attributes: Likely going to play a huge role as a power forward. His size is an asset, and has great speed and skill that will allow him to perform at a high level in the NHL. He can be physical and create scoring chances for himself using his large frame. He will have time to hone his game in the college ranks before making the jump to the pro level.
4. RW Michael Grabner
Drafted: 2006, 14th Overall (By Vancouver)
Previous Team: Vancouver Canucks/ Manitoba Moose (AHL)
Key Attributes: His game can be described with two simple words: skating and skill. He has great hands, tremendous speed, and is tough to stop when around the net. While inconsistency has been an issue, he will get a great opportunity in Florida this year to play as a top six forward, something he could not have done in Vancouver.
5. D Keaton Ellerby
Drafted: 2007, 10th Overall
Current Team: Rochester Americans (AHL)
Key Attributes: Ellerby was a raw talent coming out of juniors, but has shown a lot of growth both physically and in hockey-wise in the past two seasons. He is a crisp passer and brings a physical yet disciplined tone to the ice. He played a few games in the NHL last season and should have an opportunity this year to play for the Panthers right out of camp.
Analysts’ Fantasy Stud: C Michael Frolik
Frolik had a decent sophomore season with the Panthers but is on the verge of a breakout season. Frolik has explosive speed, is a good playmaker, and has a scoring touch as well. He can likely be had in the middle rounds of most drafts, and at only 22 years of age, is a great option in keeper in dynasty leagues. Frolik will likely score between 50 and 70 points this season and will only continue to improve.
Analysts’ Player to Avoid: D Bryan McCabe
McCabe is a very hard player to judge, as his production is not always a guarantee. During a good season he can score 20 goals and put up 80+ PIMS; however, his mediocre defensive play is a +/- killer. However, McCabe has also seen his fair share of injuries playing all 82 games twice in the last eight seasons.
While McCabe might be a valuable option in points only and PIMS, leagues do not draft him for merely back end production in most leagues.
Analysts’ Sleeper Special: RW Michael Repik
Michal Repik is very much the essence of a sleeper pick. He will very much be under the radar in 2010-2011 with a talented rookie class making its way into the NHL this year. Repik had an excellent first professional season in Rochester, recording 53 points in 60 games and will hope to carry over that production into the NHL. He is worth a look in the late rounds of most drafts and is a viable option late in keeper and dynasty drafts, as he is only 21 years old.
Expectations and Prediction:
The Panthers are in the midst of another rebuilding season. They have given up on forward Nathan Horton, who failed to reach expectations since being drafted by the club. They have turned to a youthful core group of forwards and a very young group of defenders.
It is likely that goaltender Tomas Vokoun will be dealt by the trade deadline, and if not, will become a UFA at season’s end paving the way for prospect Jacob Markstrom. It will likely be a season of struggles for the Panthers as they will not score very often nor will they be able to keep the puck out of their own goal, especially in the early part of the season as their young defenders will need time to grow and mature.
Prediction: 15th in the Eastern Conference
Overall Grade: C+